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City throws weight behind $500,000 housing rehab grant


December 5, 2018

Following a public hearing, the Sweet Home City Council on Nov. 27 approved a resolution to move forward with a request for a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant to pay for home rehabilitation.

Sweet Home is a part of a countywide partnership called the Linn County Housing Rehabilitation Program with Willamette Neighborhood Housing Services. Brownsville, Halsey, Harrisburg, Lebanon, Scio, Sodaville, Tangent, Waterloo and unincorporated areas of Linn County are also partners.

Liza Newcomb, housing rehabilitation manager with Willamette Neighborhood Housing Services, was the only person to testify during the public hearing, held during the council’s regular meeting on Nov. 27.

The grants originate with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and granted by the Oregon Business Development Department.

The funds will be used to provide loans to homeowners within the partnership area to repair their homes. The loans are no-interest and no-payment silent second mortgages to qualified homeowners.

Applicants’ incomes must be less than 80 percent of the area median income where a credit score or income precludes a bank loan. The home must be owner-occupied and equity available to support the loan amount. The dollar amount of the work must not exceed 50 percent of the market value.

The loan is paid when the homeowner dies or the property sells. Funds return to the lending agency, Willamette Neighborhood Housing Services.

The council during its regular meeting on Nov. 13 agreed to sponsor an application for a $400,000 grant.

Since then, City Manager Ray Towry said, “we have an option to get more money.”

“The State of Oregon has identified mobile home parks as a critical housing option for low- and moderate-income homeowners,” Newcomb said. “A new program to support these homeowners has been initiated this year. CDBG funds in the amount of $100,000 are now available for low- to moderate-income manufactured homeowners who reside in mobile home parks. These funds are to be distributed as grants, not loans.”

They may be used on homes built after 1977 for up to 50 percent of their real market value, Newcomb said. “We expect to help these residents replace roofs, install accessibility aids and repair plumbing and electrical issues.”

In anticipation of the grant, Newcomb said WNHS has three people on a waiting list for the grant already.

Outside of parks, the program already provides loans to owners of manufactured homes, often for roofs on 1990s homes, Newcomb said. The difference for homes in parks is the owners usually do not own the land.

“Once we start with our marketing, I think people will be knocking down our door,” Newcomb said.

The council voted 5-1 to approve the application. Voting yes were Susan Coleman, Lisa Gourley, Mayor Greg Mahler, Dave Trask and Diane Gerson. James Goble voted no.

“I don’t think it’s a practical use for taxpayer money to give someone $8,000 to $10,000 for rehab on a mobile home that’s worth $2,500,” Goble said. “I think it’s an impractical use of taxpayer money. I was fine with it before, with home rehabilitation.”

“It pulls at my heartstrings,” he said, but added that he cannot base his decision on those emotions.

Bob Briana was absent.

In other business, the council:

- Agreed to contract with StepUP IT, a third-party information technology managed service provider based in Eugene.

The goal was to provide 24-hour assistance with computer issues, including physical responses, when they arise; and Finance Director Brandon Neish said the company also will be proactive, making recommendations and advice on future IT needs.

“They are providing a service that goes above and beyond,” Neish said.

StepUP was one of four who submitted proposals to the city. Others were Gorge Tech Services, National Business Solutions and Cascade Computer Maintenance, which had been the city’s IT service provider.

The city was paying Cascade approximately $50,000 per year, Neish said. It will pay StepUP approximately $58,000 per year.

- Added three new positions – a project assistant and associate planner in the Community and Economic Development Department and a court administrator in the Finance Department – to the city’s non-represented employees salary schedule. The positions were added in this year’s budget and are filled.

The schedule includes five steps, which are granted annually based on a positive evaluation. The first step for the court administrator is $3,812 per month, and the top step is $4,461 per month. The first step for the associate planner is $4,194 per month, and the top step is $4,906 per month. The first step for the project assistant is $18.05 per hour, and the top step is $21.22 per hour.

The council voted 4-1 to approve the new salary schedule. Gerson voted no after raising a concern about the difference between library assistant wages compared to the project assistant, which she said was higher.

Coleman recused herself because her sister is the project assistant.

- Approved an interfund loan from the city’s Water Depreciation Fund to the Building Reserve to pay for the renovation of the n ew City Hall, 3225 Main St.

The project is expected to cost about $1.1 million. At the beginning of fiscal 2018-19, the city had $382,000 available for the project. The council’s decisions makes available $800,000 for the project. Interest will be based on the Local Government Investment Pool’s interest rate, which is set by state law.


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